The legend of Hạ
Long has it that, “Once upon a time, soon after the Việt people
established their country, invaders came. The
Jade Emperor sent Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons down to
earth to help the Việt people fight against their enemy. Right at the
time invaders’ boats were rushing to the shore, the dragons landed down
on earth. The dragons immediately sent out from their mouths a lot of
pearls, which then turned into thousands of stone islands emerging in
the sea like great walls challenging the invaders’ boats. The fast boats
couldn’t manage to stop and crashed into the islands and into each other
and broke into pieces.
After the victory, Mother Dragon and Child Dragons didn’t return
Heaven but stayed on earth at the place where the battle had occurred.
The location Mother Dragon landed is nowadays Hạ Long Bay and where
Child Dragons descended is now Bái Tử Long. The dragons’ tails waving
the water created Long Vĩ (present Trà Cổ peninsula) and formed a fine
sand beach over ten kilometers long”.
Hạ Long Bay is located in the northeastern part of Vietnam
and constitutes part of the western bank of Bắc Bộ Gulf, including the
sea area of Hạ Long City and Cẩm Phả Town and part of Vân Ðồn island
district. It abuts Cát Bà Island in the southwest. Toward the west is
the shore with a 120 km-long coastline. It is located within 106o58’-107o22’
east longitude and within 20o45’- 20o50’ north
latitude. The site is 1553 sq. km with 1969 islands of various sizes, of
which 989 have been named.
The islands in Hạ Long Bay are mainly limestone and schist
islands most lying in the two main areas: the southeastern part of Bái
Tử Long Bay and southwestern part of Hạ Long Bay. These islands
represent the most ancient images of a geographical site having a
tectonic age of from 250 million to 280 million years. They are the
result of many times of rising and lowering processes of the continent
to form a karst. The process of nearly full erosion and weathering of
the karst created the unique Hạ Long Bay in the world. In a not very
large area, thousands of islands with different forms look like
glittering emeralds attached to the blue scarf of a virgin. The area
where many stone islands concentrate has spectacular scenes and
world-famous caves and is the center of Hạ Long Bay Natural Heritage,
including Ha Long Bay and a part of Bái Tu Long Bay.
The area is recognized as the World Natural Heritage that
is the area of 434 sq. km with 775 islands. It looks like a giant
triangle with Ðầu Gỗ Island (in the west), Ba Hầm Lake (in the south)
and Cống Tây Island (in the east) as its three angle points. The nearby
area is the buffer area and areas classified as national beauty spots in
1962 by the Ministry of Culture and Information.
from above, Hạ Long Bay looks like an extremely vivid huge drawing. This
is a wonderful and skilful masterpiece of the Creation and of nature
that turns thousands of dumb soulless stone islands into fantastic
sculptural and artistic works of various graceful shapes, both familiar
and strange to human beings. Thousands of islands emerging uneven in the
fanciful waves look strong and magnificent but also mild and vivid.
Amidst these islands we feel as if we were astray in a petrified
legendary world. There are many names given to islands according to
their shapes and forms. This one looks like somebody heading toward the
shore: Hòn Ðầu Người (Human Head Island); that one looks like a dragon
hovering above the sea surface: Hòn Rông (Dragon Island); another looks
like an old man sitting fishing: Hòn Lã Vọng; some look like big sails
struggling amidst the wind to set off for the sea: Hòn Cánh Buồm (Sail
Island); then two islands look like a pair of chicken lovingly playing
with each other above the sea: Hòn Trống Mái (Male and Female Chicken
Island); and amid the vast sea stands an island like a big incense
burner like a ritual offering to Heaven: Hòn Lư Hương (Incense Burner
Island)All are so real that people are taken aback by them. Those stone
islands have experienced unpredictable changes over time and they take
different shapes from different angles of view. Here, we come to realize
that they are not dumb inanimate things but are vivid and soulful.
the stone islands are various breath-taking caves, such as Thiên Cung,
Ðầu Gỗ, Sửng Sốt, Trinh Nữ, Tam Cung and others. These are really
magnificent palaces of the Creation on earth. Long ago, Hạ
Long Bay has been called by the great national poet Nguyễn
wonder of the earth erected towards the high sky”.
Many men of letters from all over the world have been taken aback at the
grandiose scenery of Hạ Long. They seem to get puzzled and incompetent
as their treasure of vocabulary is not rich enough to depict the
splendor of this place.
Hạ Long Bay is also attached to glorious pages of
Vietnamese history, with famous sites such as Vân Ðồn, a bustling trade
port in the 12th century, charming Bài Thơ Mountain, and not
very far away from here is the Bạch Đằng River which witnessed two
famous naval battles of the Viêt’s ancestors against invaders. Also, Hạ
Long is one of the cradles of human kind with the glorious Hạ Long
culture in the late Neolithic age, discovered at such archeological
sites as Ðộng Mang, Xích Thổ, Soi Nhụ and Thoi Giếng.
Hạ Long is also home to great biodiversity with typical
eco-systems like mangrove forest, coral and tropical forest. It is also
home to thousands of plants and animals of numerous species, for example
shrimp, fish and squid. Some species are particularly rare and can be
found no where else.
With such special values, at the 18th Session
of UNESCO’s Council of World Heritage held on 17 December 1994 in
Thailand, Hạ Long Bay was officially placed on the list of the World
Natural Heritage. In 2000, UNESCO recognized it as the World Heritage
for the second time for its geographical and geomorphologic values. This
confirms the global premier value of Hạ Long Bay.
Wherever you come from, whosoever you are and however old
you are, you will certainly experience the same emotion and feeling when
admiring this wonder of stone and water. And great experiences will
always remain even when you leave the place. The legend of Mother Dragon
and Child Dragons sending out pearls to form thousands of stone islands
to stop invaders still serve as the soul of this invaluable heritage of
Have you ever come to Hạ Long, the unique wonder of the
world of its kind, to admire and explore secretes implicit in the place?
Technology Center & Quảng Ninh Tourism)
Beyond Ha Long Bay
Apart from Ha Long Bay, the rest of Quang Ninh Province has a range of
attractions to tempt visitors.
Yen Tu - the sacred mountain
Located about 130 km from Hanoi, a few kilometres north of the main road
to Ha Long at Uong Bi, is Yen Tu Mountain, the location of a complex of
11 pagodas and close to a hundred shrines and towers. Many are dedicated
to the early founders of Vietnamese Buddhism who lived and worked there.
Heavily visited by domestic pilgrims during the early part of the year,
it is worth the long, steep climb not only for its historical interest,
but also for the attractive landscape and views. A cable car is a recent
The heroic battles of Bach Dang
The Bach Dang estuary, the site of two of Vietnam’s greatest victories,
lies between Ha Long and Haiphong. In 938 AD, Vietnamese rebels led by
General Ngo Quyen defeated a vastly superior Chinese army by sinking
sharpened ironwood stakes into the mud so that the enemy ships were
impaled when the tide fell, thus ending a thousand years of Chinese
occupation. Three hundred and fifty years later, General Tran Hung Dao
humbled the mighty hordes of Kublai Khan’s Mongol army, using the
identical strategy in exactly the same place, suggesting that the Great
Khan should have studied Chinese military history!
Apart from some of the stakes still in their original position, little
physical evidence of the battlefield remains to be seen. However, the
small town has a good commune house, a decent museum, and is located in
a tranquil area of traditional villages and agriculture.
Cam Pha and coal mining
Cam Pha, 20 km east of Ha Long City, has one of the largest open cast
coal mines in the world. It's far from beautiful, but the scale of
operation (and pollution!) is impressive. A visit needs careful
planning, though – we have to negotiate access with the mine
In the Cua Ong district of Cam Pha, the Cua Ong Temple is a rewarding
visit, particularly during the festival period in the three lunar months
of spring. Its classic architecture and striking engravings are
Quan Lan's Minh Chau beach is virtually empty of visitors Beyond Cam Pha,
there are several ‘soil’ large islands created by alluvial deposits from
the Red River. Their sea-facing shorelines are long sandy beaches, and
their remote location means that few people visit them, and these is
virtually no development of any kind. A boat takes several hours to
The best of these is Quan Lan, a peaceful island with a small
population. There's a three places to stay. Two are very basic but a
recently-built small resort is a possibility.
Closer to the shore, and thus more developed, Van Don Island’s beach is
long and sandy, and overlooks the eastern extreme of the limestone
towers of Ha Long Bay. There are a few local hotels and restaurant. A
more up-market ‘resort’ is being developed.
Mong Cai and Tra Co Beach
In the extreme northeast of the area is the large border town of Mong
Cai, devastated during the abortive Chinese invasion of Vietnam in 1979
and now re-built. Not far away, and best reached by hydrofoil from Ha
Long City, is Tra Co Island. It has a long beach of hard sand – wide and
practically deserted. There is also a village with an interesting
commune house and pagoda. Accommodation is available in Mong Cai. A new
five-star hotel with a casino has opened in the town, but it is mainly
aimed at providing overnight accommodation for people passing though the
border gate to and from China.